bird house gourds growing in field
The following tips came from my aunt Martha's gourds growing experience. Although the information is intended for 'birdhouse gourds', (Lagenaria), the basic information will work for just about any type of gourd or vine plant.
First, there are a few basic requirements that must be met before attempting to grow gourds of any kind with any real success. Gourds of all types require a lot of sun, water and a long spell of warm weather. Lagenaria, or 'Bird House' gourds will need about 150 to 180 growing days in order to fully mature to 9" or 10" gourds. Gourds also need one thing that we wouldn't normally think about. Gourds need room, lots of room. Depending on the type, the vines often obtain lengths of 30' or more. I've personally seen them over 50 feet long. They can either be trellised or left to run on the ground, but I've found my best results are to simply let them go on the ground, changing the direction of the vine if necessary. Good soil is obviously a must for any plant to grow, but there are also a few other things that can be done to give them a helping hand.
Planting in Hills
One of the most popular methods for growing "any" plants from the vine family is to plant them in "hills". To do this, dig a hole about a foot deep and two feet in diameter in an area where it will receive plenty of sun and water. Then fill the hole about 1/4 to 1/2 way with cow manure or some other form of compost. These types of compost materials can be found at Wal-Mart or Kmart garden center or any garden shop. You may even know a farmer that will give you some. Good quality 'humus' will also work very well. Next, cover the manure with about 3 or 4 inches of dirt and space from about 6 to a dozen seeds around the 'hill' and cover them up. As they grow, their roots go down into the manure and are thus self fertilizing. Once they are well started, say about 2 or 3 leaves each, thin down to the best 2 or 3 plants. With good sun and water, they will soon begin spreading their vines. Just beware, the vines will soon overtake a large area, so don't place the "hills" too close together. It is not uncommon for the vines of the larger gourd species to easily reach 20, 25, even 30 feet in length. I assume that a plant can handle and grow 2 good gourds each, so, with that in mind, you could expect 20 gourds from 10 plants, depending on your local and length of growing season. Just remember, the more gourds per plant, the smaller they will be. And depending on the pollination, some will have gourds, some won't. More about this later.
It's been said that gourds 'thrive on neglect'. In other words, plant them and leave them alone. Believe it or not, this is what one of my farmer friends does to get his gourds. He goes out near an old wagon that sits out in the open where it gets plenty of sun. He then pushes some seeds into the ground around it and leaves them alone all summer. The gourds grow all around and up onto the old wagon. At the end of the year, around the time the growing season has come to an end, or the weather has turned cool, he picks his gourds and sets them on the wagon to dry. He leaves them there until I pick them up and bring them home to work them into Purple Martin houses. This works for him. Every year he has 30 to 50 beautiful gourds that he can either use or give away to be used for the martins.
martin gourds growing on an old wagon